As we approach the deadline for this this year’s Immortal Awards, we’ve caught up with our jurors on their creative paths – from their formative years in creativity through to now, as they gear up to get stuck into judging the best of the best. First up is Jose Miguel Sokoloff, global president of MullenLowe Group Creative Council and chief creative officer of MullenLowe Group UK.
One of the most internationally awarded and respected advertising creatives, Jose Miguel’s most recognised work for the Colombian Ministry of Defense has propelled him from advertising creative to cultural figure – but we wanted to know how he got where he was today and what gets his creative juices flowing…
Immortal Awards> Were you a creative kid?
Jose Miguel> I grew up in Colombia and spent most of my holidays in the countryside. We were out from morning to late afternoon and there was no TV reception, so we were forced to use our imagination to fill the days. We used to do all these things that children don’t really do now, like use bottle caps as money, which gave us an opportunity to start storytelling and invent games and narratives, which was a great way to start exploring my creative side.
IA> Who or what has been the biggest source of inspiration in your life?
Jose Miguel> This is a very difficult question because I have many, many sources of inspiration, but one thing that always motivates me is the work. If I see something that makes me envious or think ‘this is something we should be doing’, that will spur me on to create something better.
This was something that developed when I first started in advertising which feels like a long time ago now. I used to sit down and look at the Umatic reels that were circulating around the world with the best advertising that was out there. I admired it all and aspired to create work to that standard, and that’s what still inspires me now.
Life and music are also other sources of inspiration, so those combined with the work is what keeps me hungry.
IA> What was your first EVER job?
Jose Miguel> My first ever job was working in an engineer’s office as a messenger boy. I used to have to catch the bus to make and collect deliveries.
IA> And specifically, what was your first ever job in adland?
Jose Miguel> My first job in advertising was the lowest possible job in an agency at the time. Sitting in the media department, I had to go through the daily newspapers and cut out all of the ads that our agency or the competition ran, then stick them in folders. It seems very old school now but I guess I am old…
It was a great education because I was constantly surrounded by the work. Looking at ads, trying to figure out what they were about and sorting them into clippings folders was a great way to try and understand what was going on in the market.
IA> Did you always know you wanted to work in the field of advertising, or did you have other plans for your career?
Jose Miguel> I did Civil Engineering at university then I went into business school, so it’s very clear that I had no idea what I wanted to do. My placement job before I graduated was in a factory that made carbon paper and typewriter ink. I was in the IT department as I’d taken a lot of courses in computer programming and computer language called COBOL which is ancient history now. I think it’s safe to say I ended up in advertising by pure chance, and how I got from working in IT to advertising is a bit of a weird story too.
To get to work, I had a two-hour commute across the city which meant I had to go to university, finish my studies, do my homework then go across town to work. It got a bit tiring after a while, so I wanted to find work that was close to my house. Turned out that Leo Burnett was a block and a half from where I used to live and one of my friends worked there. I asked if he could get me a job and he told me to come and take a look around and if I liked it, they would try and get me an interview.
When I went for a tour, I thought ‘yeah, this is perfect’. There were a lot of headphones and people with Walkmans on their cubicles which looked great. I thought I could hide in a cubicle all day and get paid to listen to music but it transpired that those people were listening to and transcribing research, not listening to music calmly… But that’s how I got in, anyway.
IA> What is the biggest lesson you feel you have learned on your journey through your career?
Jose Miguel> The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to surround yourself with people who are better than you in every field. There’s only so much you can do alone, but if you work with people who are better and brighter, then together you’ll create something that you’re not capable of coming up with by yourself. Let them take you on the journey and learn as much as you can then at the end, you will be in a position to ensure those around you work to their full potential. If that’s happening, you’re in a very good place.
IA> When and where do you feel you are able to be the most creative?
Jose Miguel> I don’t have to go away to think, I’m at my most creative when I’m stimulated by other opinions. When I’m sitting down having a discussion about work and have the chance to consider the problem and hear all the arguments for and against, there will be a moment of clarity that I have always cherished.
IA> How did your childhood shape who you are creatively today?
Jose Miguel> I have no idea! I had a very happy childhood and I’m very thankful for that. I don’t know if it had any effect on my creativity, but I think remembering your childhood with fond memories makes you a better person, and if that’s helped me be creative then that’s great.
IA> What does creativity mean to you?
Jose Miguel> To me, the definition of creativity is solving a problem in a better way than before. I think it’s definitely a characteristic of life in general, not just specific to humans. While humans have taken it to a different level, there are birds that are very creative in the way they get their food so finding solutions to all kinds of problems has to have a level of ingenuity, which I love.
IA> How do you keep your creative batteries charged?
Jose Miguel> There’s a lot of answers to this question. One thing I love to do is cook. I always cook when I get back from work. I don’t have a favourite thing to make but the ingredients have to be worthy and important. If the ingredients aren’t worthy, then they are lost in the process.
Cooking, walking and running have all become bridges between work and my world, which I think is really important to keep my creative batteries charged. It’s during my walks to and from work that I’m able to start the process of getting in the zone for the day ahead and unwinding in the afternoon, while cooking is a great creative outlet and way to wind down.
IA> What are you most looking forward to as a juror for this year’s Immortal Awards?
Jose Miguel> Every time I sit on a jury, all I want to see is work that makes me jealous. This really keeps me going because the work that is produced is amazing and exciting (as much as we try to say that advertising is in decline, or is not what it used to be, I think it’s just different), so I’m excited to see a lot of work that I respect and wish I had done.
IA> What is your proudest achievement from your working life?
Jose Miguel> My proudest achievement from my working life is not having achieved it yet and having more to do. Feeling I could do better keeps me motivated to continue creating.
Jose Miguel Sokoloff will be judging this year’s Immortal Awards, and entries are now open! Little Black Book members have up to five free entries (depending on their membership). The deadline to enter is September 9th. Members should visit the submissions page to complete their entries, whilst non-members can join LBB here.
This article was originally published on LBBO